Most Anticipated Books of Winter 2019

 

Happy Monday everyone! Are you as excited as I am about the crop of books coming this winter? SO many sound amazing, actually too many for me to include in this post but I had fun picking out my MOST anticipated.  I think I’ve got a variety so hopefully some are also on your lists or you’ll find some new ones to add to your TBR’s. If you have time, feel free to share your thoughts on my choices as well as YOUR most anticipated upcoming book(s) in the comments below

 

JANUARY

Out of the Dark  (Jan 29) When darkness closes in―he’s your last, best hope. Evan Smoak returns in Gregg Hurwitz’s #1 international bestselling Orphan X series.
**This is the 4th book in the Orphan X series by Greg Hurwitz and from early reviews, apparently his best yet. This series is well written and action packed with a main character you can really root for. I recommend reading the books in order, starting with Orphan X

Here and Now and Then  (Jan 29) A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, this book captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart, and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.
**I love books with time travel elements and when I see emotional and genre bending added to the mix I’m all in

99 Percent Mine (Jan 29) Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend.
**I loved The Hating Game and feel confident that this new romantic comedy with its seemingly star-crossed lovers will be right up my alley

 

FEBRUARY

The Winter Sister (Feb 5) In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.
**Another debut that sounds intriguing. I love unsolved murders and early Instagram reviews are very positive for this one

The Unwinding of the Miracle  (Feb 5) A rare and inspiring memoir by a young mother with Stage IV metastatic cancer that challenges the pieties with which we usually write and talk about death, and serves as a guide not just through the ordeal of disease, but through the universal experience of struggle.
**I”m always on the look out for thought provoking nonfiction along the lines of past favorites like The Bright Hour  and When Breath Becomes Air  (yes, both serious tearjerkers) and this memoir sounds just as good

The Lost Man (Feb 5) Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland but only one returns
**
I loved Harper’s first book, The Dry but didn’t care for her second novel Force of Nature so I’m looking forward to finding out where I fall with her new one. This is a standalone which I like and the mystery seems to be more on the lines of The Dry

The Last Romantics  (Feb 5) A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family. An unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love
**I love stories described as sweeping and epic so those buzzwords caught my eye right away. This is a book about 4 siblings and I really enjoy those types of family stories

American Spy (Feb 12) What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love? One woman struggles to choose between her honor and her heart in this enthralling espionage drama set against an unforgettable historical backdrop.
**I love every part of what this book is about…part spy thriller, part heartbreaking family drama, part passionate romance…inspired by true events! Yes please!!

MARCH 

When All is Said  (March 5) If you had to pick five people to sum up your life, who would they be? If you were to raise a glass to each of them, what would you say? And what would you learn about yourself, when all is said and done?
**I think the success of this story, for me, will hinge on the main character Maurice. I really hope I connect with him as he spends an evening alone at a bar, toasting to 5 people in his life who left him behind

The Mastermind  (March 5) The incredible true story of the decade-long quest to bring down Paul Le Roux—the creator of a frighteningly powerful Internet-enabled cartel who merged the ruthlessness of a drug lord with the technological savvy of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur
**I LOVE thrilling true crime and this sounds like it will be suspenseful yet fascinating. Am I the only one who has never heard of an internet cartel? If the writing holds up, I predict I’m going to love this one!

Before She Knew Him (March 5) Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door. An exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .
**I loved The Kind Worth Killing  and have been waiting on Swanson to write something similar to that one and this sounds like it could be just as chilling and creepy. I always enjoy some suburban chaos and maybe a little murder thrown in for good suspense!

Grace After Henry (March 12) Grace sees her boyfriend Henry everywhere. In the supermarket, on the street, at the graveyard. Only Henry is dead. He died two months earlier, leaving a huge hole in Grace’s life and in her heart. But then Henry turns up to fix the boiler one evening, and Grace can’t decide if she’s hallucinating or has suddenly developed psychic powers. Grace isn’t going mad – the man in front of her is not Henry at all, but someone else who looks uncannily like him.
**I’m very curious about this love story…will it be sad or humorous? More rom-commish?  I don’t know but I’m looking forward to finding out. I’m feeling like suspension of disbelief might be needed but I’m ok with that if I connect with the story and characters…we”ll see.

I hope I’ve expanded your TBR’s! An added note if you’re interested, I will be randomly posting other books I’m excited about throughout the winter in my Instagram Stories which you can access here as well as on my Twitter (here) and Goodreads (here

Happy Reading!

 

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2 Backlist Bingeworthy Books for Your 2019 TBR’s

The Idea of You  by Robinne Lee
Published: June 13, 2017 By St Martin’s Griffin
368 Pages
Affiliate LinkBuy on Amazon 

From Publisher: Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things

 

My Thoughts: Ok, so I read this blurb when the book first came out and I was seeing it everywhere and I thought it wasn’t for me because of the large age difference. Earlier this week, however, I saw this on someone’s Instagram top 2018 books of the year post and decided to take a closer look after reading that she had had the same reservations but then loved it. Well, this effectively busted me out of my DNF pattern and I read it in one day! This story was such a fun surprise. There’s some serious globetrotting travel going on which I loved as well as a high level of cultural detail into the art world as the main character Solene owns her own gallery. I found her to be very likable although she made some  questionable parenting decisions along the way. I also really liked Hayes who was levels above his age, maturity wise.

There are SO many themes explored in this book….love of course, ageism, sexism, the downside of fame, our society’s obsession with celebrities, women & aging, double standards, etc. I think this would make a great book club pick because there’s quite a lot to discuss but know that the romance is often quite steamy and explicit so…know your book club is what I’m saying. I’m dying to discuss this – especially that ending which I’m still thinking about days later –  so if you’ve read it and want to chat send me an email or DM me on Twitter or Instagram. Ultimately, I loved this and found it to be a smart, sophisticated love story. Bingeworthy indeed!

 

 

Forever is the Worst Long Time  by Camille Pagan
Published: Feb 7, 2017 by Lake Union
284 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy on Amazon 

From Publisher: When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

My Thoughts: My 2019 has started with a bang with this couldn’t-put-it-down story. One of my favorite storylines is a love triangle so right off the bat I had high hopes for this book. The story is narrated by James from a time in the future which I thought was a perfect way to not only get to know (and like) him but to also get to know Lou and Rob through his eyes. James and Rob had been friends since they were kids and I loved how Pagan incorporated the sentimentality of that type of friendship along with growing up in a small town. If you’re James, what do you DO when you’ve fallen in love with your best friend’s fiancé?

What I especially loved about the way Pagan told the story is that everyone felt like real people making what often ended up being stupid decisions. They were flawed in just the right ways that what they did or didn’t do made sense even if I didn’t agree with them.  I have to say, throughout the story, I had no idea what was going to happen with these characters because twists happened early on.  Plus, it takes place over a time period of about 18 years so we really get involved and invested in the drama of their lives. And the drama was good! And perfectly paced. In the end, things happened I never anticipated and there may have been crying on my part. Seriously, I wasn’t prepared for how emotional this story ended up being and I loved every bit of this surprising one sit read! This is my first book by this author but it definitely won’t be my last.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read this or want to!

Throwback Thursday Book of the Week

Throwback Thursday book of the week is a fun way to share a book I’ve loved that was published in the past and somehow either wasn’t on my radar or I chose to pass it by. These books are usually much easier to get ahold of at the library or usually sold at a lower price in paperback or ebook. This week I’m sharing a book I read in the spring and have been recommending to everyone ever since!

One True Loves  By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published June 7, 2016 By Simon & Schuster
352 pages
Affiliate link: Buy on Amazon

From Publisher: A breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

My Thoughts: Last year I think I was one of the last people to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (my review) which ended up being one of my favorite books in 2017! It wasn’t until this past spring that I decided to try Reid’s backlist books.  Once I dived into this one I was -again- kicking myself for waiting so long to read this book!  It’s the story of Emma and Jesse and Emma and Sam. Yes, a love triangle, but it felt very original.

The book is structured in a way that we get to know how both love stories develop over the first half of the book and then what happens when they are all brought together for the second half. It may sound a little clunky but believe me the structure and the concept work. I was completely sucked into the story after the drama filled opening pages.  I did, however, feel a little loss of momentum when she takes us back in time to their high school lives but this was necessary to truly get a feel for each of them and how they fell in love. I flew through the second half of this book because what a complicated, truly gut punching position for Emma to be in…I had to know who she would choose and what happened after she made her choice. Reid writes in such a realistic, propulsive way that the people and their complicated situations feel real and it’s just SO hard to put her books down. I read this in one sitting and really loved it so even if you think you’re not in the mood for a love triangle, I say give this a try,  you just might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

Have you read and enjoyed this or other books by Taylor Jenkins Reid? 

Happy Thursday Reading! 

 

REVIEW: BACHELOR NATION By Amy Kaufman

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Publication March 6, 2018 by Dutton

For fifteen years and thirty-five seasons, the Bachelor franchise has been a mainstay in American TV viewers’ lives. Since it premiered in 2002, the show’s popularity and relevance has only grown–more than eight million viewers tuned in to see the conclusion of the most recent season of The Bachelor.

The iconic reality television show’s reach and influence into the cultural zeitgeist is undeniable. Bestselling writers and famous actors live tweet about it. Die-hard fans–dubbed “Bachelor Nation”–come together every week during each season to participate in fantasy leagues and viewing parties.

Bachelor Nation is the first behind-the-scenes, unauthorized look into the reality television phenomenon.

******

My secret is out….I’m a Bachelor Fan! Of course, my immediate family and a few friends know I love The Bachelor and Bachelorette shows but it’s not something I regularly admit to watching. I know I’m not alone since I’ve been seeing comments for this book pop up on Goodreads from others who start off by saying The Bachelor is their guilty pleasure show. And a secret. Well, Amy Kaufman has now put our #BachelorNation obsession into coherent words with her engaging, witty book. Seriously, how has this show continued season after season, weathering controversy and drama and still manages to bring in millions of viewers each episode?? Amy has your answers.

Friends, I have to say this up front…I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I read it in one sitting on a Friday evening with a large glass of wine and I had the best time. As someone who’s watched the show since Trista and Ryan’s season, so the 2nd season and they’re now on season 35 I believe, I absolutely loved reading about how the show was created (a fluke) and the very interesting behind the scenes details about it’s creators. Amy Kaufman had behind the scenes access to the show for many years until one day it vanished and she was deemed banned from all things Bachelor…makes you say hmmm. I loved her interviews with past contestants and her inside scoop on how the episodes are actually made. I always wondered how the producers were working behind the scenes to get the girls and guys to SAY some of the things that come out of their mouths…now I know and truly I’ll never watch the show the same.

What I especially liked was Amy’s writing and her ability to keep the pace fast and the tone upbeat. I never felt that the book ventured into gossip territory; rather, I found her writing to be intelligent and informative. The only part that I sort of breezed through was the chapter on the history of reality dating shows but I appreciate the background info she was providing to put The Bachelor of today into context. If you’re a fan, secret or otherwise, of The Bachelor/Bachelorette I think you’ll absolutely enjoy this book!

Many thanks to Dutton Books via Netgalley for my copy

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published months or years ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

My PICK this week is…

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Published Aug 2016 By William Morrow 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

*****

Why oh why did I resist reading this book for so long??!! This is another rom-com style book that has consistently gotten raves from fellow bloggers (most recently Amanda at Hanging with Amanda) and has a high Goodreads rating, yet I still passed it by. Maybe I was just meant to wait and read it last weekend after finishing and being terrified by I’ll Be Gone In The Dark (2/27, review coming next week); I knew I HAD to have a light, fun read to counteract that one.  This fit the bill perfectly and caused me to stay up way past my bedtime reading.

Possibly what made me resist reading this until now was my assumption that I’d heard this story before. A guy and girl hate each other, throw insults back and forth, and then somehow they each magically forget all the bad words and insults and fall in love. This isn’t that book. Yes, Josh and Lucy don’t like each other but their “hatred” for each other just scratches the surface of their relationship and the way Thorne wrote these characters and their banter was just so funny, witty, and down to earth. I immediately liked both of them and was pulled into the story with pacing that was fast and snappy and dialogue that zinged. I read it in about a day and I just loved it. It’s the perfect read if you’re looking for a crime fiction break or want a smart with substance lighter read to add to your summer tbr. Also, I listened to part of it on audio and the narrator was great!

HAPPY READING!!

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Annie at The Misstery

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

Laurie at Cozy Nook Books

Laura at Snazzy Books

Holly at Dressed to Read

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Diana at A Haven for Book Lovers

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published months or years ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

My PICK this week is…

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Published Jan 2013 by St Martin’s Press

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

A funny, poignant and revealing novel that’s become a huge word-of-mouth hit in the US.

How do you prove you’re not an alcoholic?

Hildy Good has reached that dangerous time in a woman’s life – middle-aged and divorced, she is an oddity in her small but privileged town. But Hildy isn’t one for self-pity and instead meets the world with a wry smile, a dark wit and a glass or two of Pinot Noir. When her two earnest grown-up children stage ‘an intervention’ and pack Hildy off to an addiction centre, she thinks all this fuss is ridiculous. After all, why shouldn’t Hildy enjoy a drink now and then?

But as the story progresses, we start to see another side to Hildy Good, and to her life’s greatest passion – the lies and self deceptions needed to support her drinking, and the damage she causes to those she loves. When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behaviour of one threatens to expose the other, with devastating consequences

******

There’s so many reasons I loved this story but one of the biggest is Hildy.  Her character is funny, witty and very charming but has an underlying sadness that she’s not really aware of but the reader feels. While getting to know her and being privy to her slow unraveling, you begin to feel that Hildy’s life is a train that’s quite possibly nearing the point of derailment. And here’s what that blurb above is missing…this story has a fantastic mystery at it’s heart, one I couldn’t figure out until the author skillfully revealed the answer. Notice how I’m not sharing anything about the mystery? I think you’ll appreciate going in without knowing about it.  Although the story centers on Hildy, there’s a great cast of supporting characters that will intrigue you and keep you turning the pages until you find out how they all intertwine…cue the derailment image!

HAPPY READING!

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Annie at The Misstery

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

Laurie at Cozy Nook Books

Laura at Snazzy Books

Betty at Idaho Bluebird 50

REVIEW: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT By Kristan Higgins

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Published Dec, 26, 2017 by Harlequin Books

Short Summary: One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her.

 

******

I have to say, Women’s Fiction/Romance is not my typical genre but I’d seen this book getting lots of love from other bloggers and on Goodreads so I decided to shake up my reading life a little and I’m SO glad I did because I really enjoyed this book. From the first few pages when I met Nora and got a feel for her life as a gastroenterologist (I love that this was her specialty!), I was hooked. There’s something about the way this author writes characters that enabled me to immediately connect with Nora and want to follow her and see what happened. When I connect with a character, I’m on board and can’t wait to see where the story leads and that’s exactly what happened within the first 20 pages of this one.

I really went into this story not knowing too much which I highly recommend doing and that’s why I just provided a very short part of the blurb. The story really takes off after Nora is hit by a car (no spoiler this is in blurb) and returns home to her small seaside community in Maine where her mother is as grouchy and standoffish as ever. Side note though…Nora’s mom really grew on me and I loved that she had a pet bird named Tweety who was the love of her life! Here’s where the story really shines and takes off because the setting is fantastic, I loved everything about this small Maine town. I could picture the shops, restaurants and water,  I do love a small town story that’s set on the water…any water.

For me, what made this such an excellent read (outside of Nora) were the secondary characters. There were so many characters that circled this story and all were clearly drawn and layered. That’s not to say all were likable because they weren’t and that’s what I loved. I’m not telling you too much about the plot but suffice it to say Nora’s return after 15 years stirs the pot in more ways than one. Not everyone is happy she’s back and that makes for good drama. It also made for well placed humor in many parts. That being said, this wasn’t a perfect book for me. I REALLY wanted to hear more from Nora’s sister!  Also, there were a few times in the middle I thought the story dragged and yes there might have been some predictability to some scenes but honestly, I didn’t care about any of this. I was enjoying the story and even stayed up super late to read which for me is always the sign of a must read book. In the end, I was sad to say goodbye to these characters so I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a lighter read with substance and excellent characterization.

Many thanks to Harlequin Books via Netgalley for my copy 

 

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published months or years ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d like to link back to me that’d be great as I really try my best to include everyone who’s participating week by week at the bottom of my post so all my readers can enjoy all the awesome Throwback picks!

My Pick This week is….

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Published May 23, 2017 By Thomas Dunne Books

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

We live in a society obsessed with celebrity, but have you ever wondered who is on the inside gathering the best celebrity gossip and how do they get access? According to a Source: A Novel by Abby Stern dishes on this behind the scenes world in a way that only a Hollywood insider could.

Ella Warren works for celebrity news website, The Life, as a club reporter. She’s assigned to stake out Hollywood’s hottest clubs and spy on the celebrities inside. When Ella is pressured by her Devil Wears Prada-type boss to find an exclusive story to keep her job, she has to decide if being in Hollywood’s elite inner circle is worth jeopardizing her friendship with actress Holiday Hall, her budding romance with Holiday’s agent, and her family.

A juicy, big-hearted novel about a young woman who loses herself in a fast-paced, glamorous world where finding your authentic self isn’t easy.

******

I grant you, this is a stretch for TBT since it’s only about 5 months past pub date but I’ve been in quite the reading and blogging slump this week and I’ve had this review waiting patiently for just the right time and looks like now’s the time! I hope to get back in the swing of things soon, I just think a little break has been needed.

I found so much to like about this debut audiobook that my blogging friend Susie from Novel Visits so graciously sent me via Audible. This is the absolute perfect book to listen to because the narrator, Therese Plummer, is fantastic and the story is downright addictive and fun.  I’ll be the first to admit that I love my People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. They both pair very nicely with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio on a Friday evening. And I have ALWAYS wondered who those “sources” were whenever I’ve read something that says ” a source confirms or a source witnessed.” Until I read this, I kind of assumed they were made up. Well, now I know better thanks to Abby Stern.  There are , in fact, actual celebrity gossip “reporters” who’s jobs are to infiltrate the world of celebrities and report back to their bosses. They could give the FBI a run for their money! I know you’re probably thinking…but this is fiction…and yes, I listened to Abby’s interview at the end of the book and she was very clear that this is fiction but…this was her job and I for one wanted to believe while I was listening that she was inspired by true events.

What I really loved was trying to pair celebrities to their descriptions in the book. You see, no real names are used, rather, celebrities are referred to as “Former A list hot mess actress,” “Not so innocent over sexualized pop star,” “Sexy Indie Film actor, “Southern Girl Next Door movie star” and many more. This was just plain fun trying to figure out who they were. Add to that the behind the scenes juicy details of the inner workings of the Chateau Marmont and I couldn’t stop listening to this book. Alongside all this fun is the story of Ella Warren who is very good at getting the celebrity scoop. Her life is filled with parties, good friends, a great family and a yummy new love interest…what could possibly go wrong…right? Of course you know that SO MUCH can and does go wrong in Ella’s life, the question is…how will it all turn out for her and everyone her job has impacted? If you’re like me, you’ll love finding out. And if you can get ahold of the audio, Therese Plummer expertly brought all the characters to life…so much so that I was convinced there had to be more than 1 narrator…there’s not, she’s just that good! If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read look no further than this fantastic debut.

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Amy at NovelGossip

Annie at The Misstery

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: YOUNG JANE YOUNG By Gabrielle Zevin

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Publish Date Aug 22, 2017 By Algonquin Books

Young Jane Young’s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.
 
How does one go on after this?

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I went into this book knowing very little about it, really only reading the above part of the blurb ( heavily edited from Goodreads which is full of spoilers ) and knowing I had to try this based on my love of her previous novel, The Storied Life of A.J Fikry. That book made my top 10 reads of 2016 so I was very excited to find out that Zevin had another book coming out this summer. I’ve decided to throw my overall thoughts at you early. Here goes…

Not at all meaning this to sound negative, but this was one of the strangest books I’ve read in a long time. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying I predict this book will have polarizing viewpoints…many will love it and many will hate it. In fact, I actually have conflicting opinions myself…I LOVED the first half of this book and the second half…well, let’s just say the second half seems like an experiment in gimmicks with the author trying to toss several in there to see what would stick. Really, it’s almost like 2 separate books!  What’s even stranger (for me), was reading the last couple sections and thinking…what in the world is going on here? I mean, I have 2 words for you…El Mete?…and for those who’ve read this you’ll know what I’m referring to… but what was THAT all about?! BUT, for all my squabbles you’ve just read as well as for the fact that I felt this book NEEDED at least 50 more pages….I still really really enjoyed it!! How’s that for weird?

I picked this up at the exact perfect time after several DNFs (Did Not Finish) and I was immediately taken with the voice of the first character, Rachel, who narrates a large section of the beginning of the book. She’s funny, witty and slightly snarky and if I’m honest, I would’ve loved for her to narrate the WHOLE book. We get to know her and her daughter Aviva, whose affair with her older, married boss has Rachel at her wits end.  Needless to say, there’s drama and things are said and done by all parties that can’t be undone.

The narration then shifts to Jane who has such a strong voice as well and I found her to be engaging and a character I could absolutely get behind and root for. In my opinion, characters, their dialogue, behaviors, and thoughts, are where Zevin shines in her writing ability. Following Jane’s perspective, we get Ruby, her teenage daughter who sometimes seemed to vacillate between acting like a small child and a young adult. Bottom line: She was ok.

The remainder of the book was told in separate sections by a young Aviva and Embeth, the wife of the older, married man who had the affair. In all honesty, for me, these sections were a bit of a mess and where the gimmicks really came alive. Aviva’s section didn’t at all work for me but I really did like Embeth; in fact, I really wanted to know more about her and what became of her. Overall, I really just needed/wanted more of this story all around but I will say that my very first thought when I realized I did, in fact, reach the end was…you know…I really liked this book. For me, this just proves that I can have issues with what happens (or doesn’t) in a book and the story can feel like it may have jumped on the crazy train for a brief ride, but in the hands of an outstanding author like Gabrielle Zevin I can and will still recommend that you give this one a try, especially if you’re in the mood for something a little different!

Many thanks to Algonquin Books via Netgalley for my copy. 

REVIEW: GOODBYE, VITAMIN By Rachel Khong

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Publication date July 11th by Henry Holt and Co.

A young woman returns home to care for her failing father in this fine, funny, and inescapably touching debut, from an affecting and wonderfully original new literary voice.

A few days after Christmas in a small suburb outside of L.A., pairs of a man’s pants hang from the trees. The pants belong to Howard Young, a prominent history professor, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Howard’s wife, Annie, summons their daughter, Ruth. Freshly disengaged from her fiance and still broken up about it, feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job and arrives home to find her parents’ situation worse than she’d realized. Her father is erratically lucid and her mother, a devoted and creative cook, sees the sources of memory loss in every pot and pan. But as Howard’s condition intensifies, the comedy in Ruth’s situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief. 

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I’m going to be honest and say that blurb doesn’t at all do Goodbye, Vitamin justice…it makes it seem somewhat boring actually and this book was not in any way boring. In fact, I think Amazon is right on the mark choosing it as a debut book of the month. Well deserved!

You might see the subject of Alzheimer’s and think this is a sad book and perhaps pass it by. Of course, that is absolutely a devastating disease and there were times I felt so bad for the entire family, especially Ruth’s dad. In my opinion, however, to pass on this book would mean you’d be missing out on some of the most engaging, often laugh out loud funny writing and characters I’ve come across this year. Rachel Khong’s writing style literally grabbed me on the first page and I knew I was going to love this book. Yes, that quickly I knew!

“Tonight a man found Dad’s pants in a tree that was lit with still-hanging Christmas lights. The Stranger called and said, ‘I have some pants? Belonging to a Howard Young?’   ‘Well, shit,’ I said. I put the phone down to verify that Dad was home and had pants on. He was, and did.  Yesterday, on Mom’s orders, I’d written his name and our number in permanent marker onto the tags of all his clothes. Apparently what he’s done, in protest, is pitched the numbered clothing into trees. Up and down Euclid, his slacks and shirts hang from the branches…”

That’s a condensed version of the first page but that’s all it took for me to decide I liked Ruth and I really liked her dad. The story is narrated by Ruth who I found to be a down to earth, witty and just plain likable character. She’s returned home after her fiancé has left her and her mom has requested her help with her dad, whose dementia symptoms are increasing, yet most of the time he’s pretty lucid and together. We also meet Rachel’s brother as well as her best friends and somehow the author made every character feel multidimensional. I have a feeling it was the spot on, often snappy, dialogue that made the characters leap off the page. It’s just that good. I also really enjoyed the past journal entries of Ruth’s dad as he has decided it’s time to share those with her. They were really creative and I loved how the author ended up bringing that journal concept back in the end.

This ended up being a perfect afternoon on the patio one-sit read for me which at just 208 pages was a just right length for this story. I really hope I’ve enticed you to give this fantastic debut a try. I can’t wait to see what Rachel Khong has in store for us in the future.

Many thanks to Henry Holt and Co. via Netgalley for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review. 

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